‘Joy Takes Root’: Children’s Book Centers On Mindfulness And The Healing Power Of Nature


Gwendolyn Wallace’s children’s book Joy Takes Root is a thoughtful and beautiful ode to the natural world. It follows Joy, a young black girl, as she learns about herbal medicine and mindfulness through her grandmother’s wisdom passed down through generations. 

The synopsis reads: “It’s Joy’s first summer in her grandmother’s South Carolina gardena rite of passage. In the midst of okra, spinach, and strawberries, Grammy teaches Joy that plants are friends with many uses. Herbs, for example, can be turned into medicine.

There in Grammy’s abundant backyard, Joy learns to listen for the heartbeat of the earth and connect it to her own as she takes deep breaths and puts her intentions into the soil. By the story’s end, she learns to grow seeds in her own garden, honoring all that her grandmother taught her. With sensory-rich illustrations from award-winning illustrator Ashleigh Corrin, Joy Takes Root is a blissful reminder of all that might bloom.”

Joy Takes Root was inspired by Wallace’s own journey. Having navigated the long-term effects of Covid, she embarked on a more deliberate path towards her health and well-being. This led her to collaborate with her mother on a garden project and delve into a herbalism course rooted in the African Diaspora.

“I was not someone who considered myself very in touch with my body, but there was just something about feeling my bare feet in the soil, touching a leaf and learning to tell what my plant needed. . . searching on my hands and knees for strawberries, talking to my plants. . .those things made me feel connected to both myself and the earth in a way I hadn’t before,” she told Reckon Magazine.

Gardening served as a connection to her paternal grandmother’s garden in South Carolina, deepening their bond. Her childhood is rich with memories of her grandmother’s expansive backyard garden, walking through rows of plants.

“When it comes to forming a relationship with the natural world, there are so few gardening or nature picture books that center Black kids. I think it’s so important that kids know that Black people have a unique relationship with non-human nature, that we have folklore [,] herbal medicine [,] unique crafts like sweet grass, basket weaving and Black kids deserve to see and know that Black people have always cared very deeply about the environment.”

Purchase a copy of Joy Takes Root here, or at your local bookstore. To stay up to date with Wallace and her future projects, visit

Ayanna Nicole

Hi! I’m Ayanna, a writer and artist. Although I graduated from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte with two degrees in art and psychology, I’ve had a passion for writing for as long as I can remember. By following my dreams and utilizing my creativity, I designed Jaro Magazine with the ultimate intention of bringing more positive stories in the black community to the forefront, while also highlighting our versatile and vibrant culture through Jaro’s four modes: film, books, art, and music. I also manage a book hub, which you can find on Instagram @bloomingliterature.

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